The white flags that mysteriously appeared atop the Brooklyn Bridge last month weren’t a prank or some sort of attack on America, according to two German men now claiming responsibility for the stunt — they were a tribute.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Berlin-based artists Mischa Leinkauf and Matthias Wermke claim they hoisted the hand-stiched flags and provided photos and videos of the stunt to back it up. In phone interviews with the newspaper, the artists insisted that they placed the flags on the bridge not out of “anti-American sentiment,” but to celebrate “the beauty of public space” in memory of the bridge’s German-born engineer, John Roebling.
July 22, the day the white flags appeared, is the anniversary of Roebling’s death.
The NYPD recently said it was making progress in its investigation into who swapped the flags, after issuing a subpoena to identify the author of the parody Twitter account @BicycleLobby. The parody account had joked that it was responsible for raising the flags and duped several news organizations.
The artists told the Times that they hadn’t expected the flag swap to generate such a strong reaction and didn’t “intend to embarrass the police.”
“Few people would care if we did the same thing in Berlin,” Leinkauf said. “Of course, we did not have the same problems with terrorism.”
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.